Whenever I install a theme, I notice it odes not appear exactly the same way on Emacs Terminal and Emacs GUI.

For example, I installed this theme recently, and it behaves as the previous ones I installed:

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In this situation, for example, I prefer the look and feel shown on the right picture above. I do not use the GUI version of Emacs though, so I would like to get what I see on the right picture, in the Terminal version of Emacs.

Is this a normal behavior?

2 Answers 2


That is normal behavior as usually terminals do not have all the colors GUI has.

Some theme makers try to do their best to find matching colors on terminals that have only 16 or 256 paletted colors or provide separate palettes for different terminals.

Now I believe some new versions of terminals can render 16+M colors but not all terminal applications can do so. Newer version of emacs should be able to do this.

PS. I might be wrong :)

PPS. In your case maybe you can just export TERM=xterm-256color in your .bashrc


This is normal because most terminals do not support truecolor (24 bit color, specifying 16+ million colors). So the terminal only has 256 colors, while your GUI has more. For instance, macOS's built in terminal program Terminal.app only supports 256 colors (as of 2020-03-02).

However, if you use the right terminal app, and if you invoke a modern version of emacs (26.1+) in the right way, then you can get truecolor in the terminal and it will match what you see in the GUI.

The emacs docs describe how to invoke emacs to use truecolor. You need to create a new record in your terminfo database and then set an environmental variable to point to it. Your terminal app should indicate if it supports truecolor (and this gist collects information about support in various terminal).

FWIW, I got this working with emacs 26.1, so that what I see when connected to a remote ubuntu machine via iTerm2 exactly matches what I see running emacs locally on my Mac in GUI mode.

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